The first thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a Rockette and dance at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. However, I didn’t take dance lessons and my dancing ability is only slightly better than Elaine Benes from the TV series, Seinfeld. If you’ve seen Elaine dance, you know that my career as a Rockette never took off.
I made my way into Human Resources instead by getting an MBA in Human Resource Management and taking jobs as a trainer, HR generalist and HR director. It took a lot of education, experience and mentoring to get it right. Yet, as a human resources consultancy owner, I often work with companies that have a person with little or no background or training in HR in charge of HR. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone if their “dance moves” sometimes include limbs flailing, arms akimbo and spasms like Elaine. It’s not their fault. They haven’t been taught how to dance smoothly.
One important job of HR is to protect the company from employment lawsuits. You don’t know what you don’t know and a wrong move can mean trouble. One client called us after a former employee complained that his boss gave him an offensive nickname. The company thought it was safe because “nobody seemed to mind” and the boss made up derogatory nicknames for all of his team. An HR expert would have recognized this as harassment and taken immediate steps to discipline the boss.
Human resource professionals also need to stay up to date with employment laws. In just the last year, we’ve seen private sector employers being required to provide paid sick leave, statutes regulating employer access to social media, adoption of wellness programs, questions about employees using their own Smartphones and Blackberries to conduct business, and litigation challenging the use of unpaid interns. Just as in the TV show, So You Think You Can Dance, where contestants have to test their ability to adapt to different dance styles each week, human resource professionals need to learn and perform new moves continually.
In my experience, HR also needs to give advice about managing difficult employees. One client, who’s responsible for finance and HR, but whose educational background is just in finance, asked how to manage an employee who continually disregards dress code policy. Our client knew what she wanted to communicate but did not know how to say it. We walked her through the conversation. Human Resources, like dancing, gets better with practice sessions.
A good HR person will make recommendations to enhance your employees’ morale and productivity. We helped another client implement quick, low cost ideas including a suggestion box, performance appraisal process, regular department meetings and Town Hall meetings, which increased employee satisfaction and performance.
IMHO the best HR leaders are experts in their field as well as good business people. If you want to manage your company’s HR, but don’t have formal training, you have a leg up because you already know the business. To dance your way into human resources, take classes, keep up to date on employment law, and hire an HR firm to guide you from performing like “a full body dry heave set to music” (George Costanza describing Elaine’s dancing on Seinfeld) to having “the moves like (Mick) Jagger” of the Rolling Stones (song by Maroon 5).
Judy Lindenberger is President of The Lindenberger Group, an award-winning HR firm in New Jersey that helps companies manage small to complex HR issues. She can be reached at 609 730 1049, firstname.lastname@example.org, or learn more at www.lindenbergergroup.com.